3D TV sets shipping faster than HD TV sets

29 Nov 2010

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The retail performance of 3D hardware for the home has been developing at a healthy pace, bolstered by 3D-TV prices falling by close to 40pc in some cases, and year-one adoption of 3D TV is running at a far quicker rate in most territories than it did for high definition.

Futuresource Consulting expects global sales of 3D TVs to exceed 4 million this year. Across Western Europe alone, 1.2 million 3D TVs will be sold, rising to more than 3 million in 2011. In the US, more than 5 million 3D TVs will be sold next year.

“3D TV will continue to provide ‘premium brand’ CE manufacturers with a way to differentiate themselves from the competition and add value for consumers,” said Bill Foster, senior technology consultant at Futuresource Consulting.

“For systems that use active glasses technology, manufacturers are now able to embed 3D chipsets at a relatively low cost, allowing them to increase their margins while still keeping 3D affordable.

“Passive glasses technology, as used in cinemas, is still more expensive to produce for the home and will remain costly for some time, as the TV requires a polarised screen. In addition, passive systems are unable to show 3D in full 1,080p, as the picture on the screen is polarised, with half the image delivered to the left eye and half to the right,” Foster said.

As the television market continues to be commoditised, with traditional factors like screen size, display thickness and the quality of image reaching their peak, 3D capability will increasingly be bundled with other features, like connectivity, web services and energy efficiency to add a new dimension beyond the battle for price point.

Glasses-free 3D TVs

“Toshiba’s announcement about its autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D TVs, combined with a number of optimistic predictions across the industry, may be discouraging some consumers from investing in the current generation of 3D TV,” says Foster.

“However, Futuresource research shows that autostereoscopic technologies are at least four years away from a large-screen solution for the home, and it will likely be a few years beyond this before sets reach mass-market pricing.”

At a smaller screen size, autostereoscopic 3D devices are commercially viable as they are viewed closeup by a single person.

“The highest-profile device to be announced so far is without doubt the Nintendo 3DS, due for launch in early 2011 and featuring a 3.53-inch display, but the developers of these small displays readily admit that scaling to larger sizes for a living room environment presents a significant technical challenge."

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com